How to Raise a Child with Good Manners
Good manners are behaviors exhibited to show respect. Parents can teach kids good manners with these tips.
Good manners are behaviors exhibited to show respect. As new parents, there are milestones that you actively work on with your kids, so you know they are physically developing correctly. Some of these include their first smile, rolling over, grabbing, hugging, eating their first solid food, sitting up, crawling, pulling up, and walking.
If you want to raise a child with good manners, you can approach it much like you would physical milestones. Make a list of the good manners you want your kids to learn, set an appropriate timetable for these developments, and then actively work with your children to help them reach these goals.
If your relationship allows, discuss these manners with your co-parent, so you can both actively participate in teaching your children. Consistency between homes will help your children learn good manners more quickly and effectively.
Consider the stages of moral growth for teaching manners
Just like there are stages of physical growth for kids, there are stages of moral growth. These stages can help you set expectations for the type of manners appropriate to teach your children and at which age. Dr. Sears, a well-known author of dozens of best-selling books on parenting, describes the five stage of moral growth of children as follows:
Stage 1 – Infancy
An infant cannot moralize, too early to start teaching manners.
Stage 2 – Toddlerhood
Toddlers can’t judge right or wrong yet. They are directed by what others tell them to do.
Stage 3 – Preschool (3-7 years of age)
Preschool children start to understand values and manners. They understand how their actions affect others and how actions have consequences.
Stage 4 – School-age (7 to 10 years of age)
School-age children have a strong sense of fairness, understand the necessity of rules and manners, and want to participate in making rules.
Stage 5 – Pre-teens and teens
Pre-teens and teens are capable of abstract reasoning. They start making decisions based on the manners and values that make the most sense for themselves and society.
Manner milestones by age
Once you understand what kids are mentally and emotionally capable of learning at each stage of life, you can set appropriate milestones for your children to learn manners that are most important to you and your co-parent.
While toddlers can’t yet judge right or wrong or understand cause and effect, they can imitate what we say and do. Once your child becomes a toddler, you can start introducing polite language like please, thank you, I’m sorry, excuse me, sir, or ma’am. You can also show toddlers the importance of a positive attitude by delivering directions to your child with a smile and polite language.
Once children start to understand that actions have consequences, you can begin the process of teaching manners that show respect for others. Some appropriate manners to start introducing to kids at this age include:
- How to take turns
- The concept of sharing
- Polite greetings such as hello and goodbye
- Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Not talking with your mouth full
- Asking someone to pass something at the table rather than reaching over them
School-age children are ready to take on larger challenges related to respect and gratitude. You and your co-parent can start teaching your children to thank other adults, such as their friends’ parents, for having them over or inviting them to a meal. This is an appropriate age to teach your children to look people in the eye when speaking to them and answer their questions politely. You can also show your kids how to introduce themselves when they meet a new person, teach them to address others by name, and instill the importance of respecting the belongings and privacy of others.
When your child enters their teenage years, you and your co-parent must continue modeling good behavior and reinforcing the basics of what you expect. Additionally, you should take advantage of opportunities to get your teen out of their comfort zone and into the community. Volunteer opportunities are a great way for your teen to gain perspective and continue to learn empathy towards others.
Good manners are part of the foundation of building healthy relationships
At any stage, modeling good manners for your children, including how you and your co-parent treat one another, can help instill these behaviors in them. Learn more about teaching by example in our article, Acts of Kindness for Kids.